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Ewan McVicar

Ewan McVicar was born in Inverness. After working abroad, he returned to Scotland and was employed in various areas of social work before becoming a self-employed storyteller, author and songwriter. He has performed in over 200 schools and countless other venues across Scotland, as well as in Canada, the USA, Holland, Russia, Sweden and Uganda. He has written some 40 songs which have been commercially recorded, including 20 for the Kettle children’s show and a 1960's Top Twenty hit.

In his book - ABC, my grannie caught a flea: Scots children's songs and rhymes he introduces the book by saying...

Scotland is rich in many things, not least in our traditional children’s songs and rhymes. Every Scots child and adult can sing ‘Ally bally bee’ and ‘Ye canny shove yer grannie’. The other small rhythmic words we use to comfort or amuse very small people, and the vigorous games and funny rhymes we recall from playground days, will vary according to our age and where we were brought up. Older people lament that the young ‘don’t sing in the playground any more’, but school playtimes are hotching with song and rhyme.

True, few of the pieces popular 40 years ago can be found in action today. The kids casually make new rhymes from snatches of TV commercials and popular song. They remake - and sometimes mangle - old pieces, and ruthlessly discard most that are fondly remembered by adults, but this has always been the case. Look into collections in books and archives — you will find thousands of childhood rhymes and songs that flourished, then faded away.

This book celebrates the richness of those older sources, combined with the fruits of the author’s visits to Scottish schools from 1991 to 2006.The songs and rhymes are rich in vigour and bounce, direct language, the Scots voice, humour, observations on adult relationships that are sometimes sharp and sometimes naive, and surreal imagery.

As you read them, you will half recognise old favourites but often say, ‘Those are the wrong words’ because they are not what was used in your street or playground. Elements were trimmed off, shuffled, recombined, pruned, turned into nonsense, then into a new form of sense. I have included varying versions of a few to show how they grow and decline.

What are they for? For the children, amusement and to accompany physical activity, of course, but also for practising, developing and showing off language skills. For adults, fond memories of simpler times?

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